13/03/2017
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Rare map found stuffed up chimney to go on display in Edinburgh

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A rare antique map of the world which was destined for the skip has been painstakingly restored and will go on display at National Library of Scotland this week.

The disintegrating rare antique map, found during building work on a house in Aberdeenshire, is being put on public show after complex restoration work at the National Library of Scotland. 

The near-ruined 17th century map was delivered to the Library bundled up in a plastic sack but, after painstaking work carried out over several months, the fascinating detail it contains is once more revealed. 

Aberdeen schoolteacher and map enthusiast Brian Crossan, who handed it into the Library after builders had saved it from the skip, was reunited with the map today  when it went on public display for the first time, from 13 March to 17 April.

Why was the map found stuffed up a chimney?

The map has become known as the chimney map because it was first said to have been found stuffed up a chimney. It now appears that it was found under a floorboard when a ceiling was taken down during renovations in the 1980s on a house that was once part of the Castle Fraser estate near Kemnay to the west of Aberdeen.  

The castle is now owned by the National Trust for Scotland and they have started their own investigations to try to find out more about how such an important map came to be found where it was.

As the map is Dutch, it represents a world view as seen from Amsterdam, complete with colonial ambitions.  Australia, for example, appears as New Holland and the rivalry with their old enemy Spain is represented by a depiction of atrocities committed by Spanish invaders in South America.

Video of the map's story

The conservation work

In order for work to be carried out on the map, it was separated into eight sections and has now been re-assembled to appear as it was originally intended. Although significant sections have completely disintegrated and been lost, enough remains to be able to tell a fascinating story.

Clare Thomson, the conservator who worked on project, said she had strong doubts when she first saw the map about being able to salvage it. “Never have I worked on anything as bad as this. It was so fragmented, some of it was just like confetti,” she said.

See the chimney map

The map will be on display at National Library of Scotland from 13 March to 17 April 2017 at National Library of Scotland, George IV Bridge, Edinburgh EH1 1EW; tel: 0131 623 3700; website.

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